For a Sweet New Year

This weekend was Rosh Hashonah, the start of the Jewish New Year, 5770. While Dick Clark doesn’t host a “Rockin’ Rosh Hashonah” Show on ABC, and there aren’t thousands of people blowing horns, wearing funny hats, and watching the crystal ball descend into Times Square, like December 31, the Jewish New Year is a time of reflection and a celebration of renewal.

Surrounded by family and friends, I spent this holiday once again reminded of all my blessings. I didn’t make a list of New Year’s resolutions, but did make a personal promise to improve where I could, try harder when necessary, and accept graciously when acceptance is the best option.

Traditions are the always in life, those things we count on and by which we define ourselves and our family. So my holiday table was full of the traditional foods like apples and honey, to represent a sweet new year, and round challahs, instead of the Sabbath braided ones, to symbolize the circle of life. It wouldn’t be a holiday in this household without homemade chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps not found in the Bible, but a required food group for my family.

One of the nicest traditions of the holiday is Tashlikh, the ritual of symbolically casting off your sins by tossing pieces of bread into a body of flowing water. The ancient practice is based on the the Biblical passage in Micah, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Our congregation strolls about a mile down to the park that edges Long Island Sound. We sing some traditional prayers and then walk out onto the rocks and toss bread into the waters. The gulls come swooping in, happy to ingest our “sins.” Inevitably we joke that we each need to bring at least a couple of loaves of bread to atone for all our sins. The Rabbi reminds us that it’s symbolic, not a one-for-one ratio of bread to sin.

The beauty of the setting, the warmth of being surrounded by family and friends, the comfort of the traditional melodies, and the sense of renewal, of starting the new year afresh, gives me a wonderful feeling of contentment and rejuvenation.

Best wishes for a Healthy, Happy, Sweet New Year.

Evelyn David
Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David

5 replies
  1. Dea, Kia, Jake
    Dea, Kia, Jake says:

    Thank you for this lovely and thoughtful post, Evelyn! I atoned for my sins this weekend by paddling into a stiff wind in my kayak, hoping not to capsize. I wish I had brought a challah with me if for nothing else than to keep my strength up. Glad the holiday was so rewarding and family-filled for you. Maggie

  2. Vicky Polito
    Vicky Polito says:

    When I first moved to NY after college and worked in elementary school textbook publishing (this would have been right before I met Ms. Maggie Barbieri), I had the great luck to know a production editor named Ira Levine who taught me that, aside from the more official and historic meanings of some Jewish holidays, there was the following:

    Rosh Hashanah was called Rusha Homah, because after having a nice long lunch together, we could all split work to “be sure to get home before sunset”! Ira and I would tease one another all day about how and why it might be necessary to leave Manhattan for, say, Brooklyn THREE HOURS EARLY to beat the falling dark! As Ira would remind me, it was necessary because “you just never know”.

    Yom Kippur was renamed Toms Kippers and designated a good day to enjoy a nice piece of fish!

    Ira was just such a sweetheart and he always shared the real skinny about his faith and traditions in an interesting way that included his jokes and puns about this holidays.

    I know you didn’t ask, but for the run-of-the-mill New Year celebration in December, I do two things: As we cross into January 1st, my husband and I always make sure the first words we say to one another are “I love you”, because it starts the year off right. Additionally, a few years ago I read about having black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck. So, I make a pot of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Eve (hint: the pressure cooker, especially the snazzy electric and programmable one from Cuisinart is FAB!), flavored with ham or bacon and some other nice stuff. Then, once midnight has passed, and even if it’s just a spoonful, the first bite of food we have is the black-eyed peas, for luck and health in the year.

    Lastly, every year on or around my birthday I do what some around here call “the mull”. I take a long walk and just go over in my mind all the things from the past year and all the things I’d like to see in the coming year and I mull over what I want and have to do (or stop wanting and doing!) to get to where I want to be by next year. It’s a good, quiet exercise for living.

    Thanks for sharing such lovely detail about your Rosh Hashanah traditions in such a good post. In these days of shallow disposability and noisy entertainments, tradition and ritual that is meaningful and positive are more important than ever.

  3. Susan McBride
    Susan McBride says:

    Ditto what Maggie said (well, except for the part about atoning for sins by paddling a kayak this past weekend). Sounds like the perfect way to start a new year. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  4. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    What a wonderful way to celebrate the beginning of a new year. Though I am a student of the Old Testament, I don't know as much as I should about the Jewish religion. I loved reading this. Thank you!


  5. The Stiletto Gang
    The Stiletto Gang says:

    Thank you all for your lovely comments. Thanks Vicky for your New Year's traditions — all great ideas whether in Tishri (the seventh month in the Jewish calendar) or December 31.

    May you all be blessed with a Healthy, Happy New Year.


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